Under the leadership of a less-than-authoritative Lt. Tom Warner (Joe Morton), the Prince Street gang hits its appointed targets. Experienced detective Alex Gage (Vincent Spano) toils with young cop Billy (Ken Garito) on a Russian gambol in a flower market.
Gage endures a terrible sadness when his friend’s assassinated. Creator-writers Robert Nathan and Michael Harbert, the actors and director Spottiswoode pull off a small but successful scene between Gage and Billy’s dad (Steve Ryan); it’s a touching vignette.
Single-mom detective Nina Echeverria (Mariska Hargitay) finds herself investigating a Mr. Sullivan (Tom Spackman) and a Peruvian gang — she changes lipstick and hairstyle as a disguise. Hargitay presents the character in such style it’s tough to see how they can do anything but honor her. Instead, she finds herself kidnapped.
Peppy detective James Tasio (Lawrence Monoson), whose wife’s gone into labor, listens doubtfully to Nina’s inappropriate and incorrect history of circumcision, but he’s otherwise on Nina’s side throughout. Latest addition to the bunch is rookie Anthony Libretti (Steven Martini), who’s intrigued by the rest of the squad’s hyper activities. A full office staff complements the team, but so far they’re ciphers.
Hargitay steals the first hour with her gutsy, purposeful Latino act, while Spano impressively projects Weltschmerz and an occasional comfortable smile, building a thoughtful characterization that could be a major draw.
The program’s speed and extensive cast of characters often blur in the fast-paced action devised by writers Nathan and Harbert. They write OK dialogue, but situation and sentiments too often ring phony. Most of the team’s action takes place at night, so there’s at least a suggestion of novelty.
Production designer Chris Nowak’s chief contribution, besides choice locales, is credibly matching Toronto footage to its N.Y. counterpart. Robert Elswit’s lensing is pro, and editing by Michael Kewley and Ray Daniels III sure establishes appropriate timing. Jan Hammer’s score, delicate but firm, fits the various occasions.
Will “Prince Street,” temporarily sitting in “ER’s” slot, take off on its own? Seems unlikely, though director Spottiswoode cunningly tries to kick life into whiskery material. The real-life team started up in 1971 and secretly plied its trade for 20 years; “Prince Street’s” way outmatched.